Cotton prices crash, CCI yet to start purchase
Cotton prices have crashed in the state, with the crop selling at around ₹5,000 a quintal to private purchasers. This is a discount of 10% over the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of ₹5,450 per quintal that the Centre has fixed. There are two reasons for the low price.
The first is the recent rainfall, which buyers claim has led to increased moisture content in the crop, and the second is that the Central government agency, the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI), is yet to enter the market. The problem is likely to be aggravated as the state is expected to record a bumper production at 36 lakh quintal, an increase of 25% over last season’s 29 lakh quintal. The crop must generally have less than 8% moisture content for it to sell at MSP. Every 1% increase in moisture translates into lower price for farmers; the upper ceiling on moisture content is 12%
A farmer Gurdyal Singh, of Kotshamir Singh village, said, “I sold my crop at ₹4,400 per quintal. It amounts to loot of farmers. Private buyers are making the excuse of high moisture content, even as there is no scientific method to really establish it.”
Another farmer Gurjeet Singh said he had refused a rate of ₹4,675 per quintal in the morning, only to sell at the same price in the evening. “Buyers didn’t budge, so I had to sell the crop at same price. We even approached mandi board officials to ask buyers to raise the price, to no avail,” he said.
A commission agent Vijay Kumar claimed that high moisture content and the depressed mood in the market was responsible for the low prices. District president of BKU (Ekta-Ugrahan) Shingara Singh Mann said, “Private buyers are looting the farmer as no government agency is in the field to purchase the crop. Even if the CCI enters the market to buy cotton directly from farmers, our plight will not improve as we are dependent on arthiyas. Farmers are even threatened if they sell directly to the CCI. We will not allow this.”
Bathinda market committee secretary Balkar Singh said he had requested private purchasers to lower rates, but they stuck to their stance of high moisture content. “We had written to the CCI about the situation, but it hasn’t yet started purchase. There will be competition if the CCI starts purchase and farmers will get a good price,” he added.
A CCI official, on the condition of anonymity, claimed that the state had asked the agency to pay 2% above the MSP to farmers for direct purchase of cotton. He added that the agency had expressed its inability to do this, as it cannot pay above the MSP. “A communication about the state government having withdrawn the condition was received on Saturday afternoon. We will start purchase in a day or two at the ginning factories,” he added.
Farmers at the Bathinda Grain Market say even mandi board officials have not been of help, as private purchasers insist on buying below the MSP. Sanjeev Kumar/HT
Left high and dry
Private purchasers are buying cotton at around ₹5,000 a quintal, which is a discount of 10% on MSP, claiming high moisture content; rain and absence of CCI is to blame, claim farmers
Farmers in trouble
The crop must generally have less than 8% moisture content for it to sell at MSP; farmers claim there is no procedure being followed to check this. A bumper crop is expected to further queer the pitch. The CCI has said it will start purchase in a day or two
Area under cotton cultivation this season
4 lakh hectare
36 lakh quintal over 29 lakh quintal last season
Arrival in state markets till October 6
2 lakh quintal